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"I'm coming…I'm coming," Geet yelled as she hurried across the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX.
She was on the phone with work and had fallen behind a few steps while everyone else raced forward. As she finally approached her family, an involuntary smile spread across her face.
"Hurry will ya," her sister Naintara called, "We don't want to miss her."
Could one person be so blessed with this much happiness and love?
Standing ahead of her was her family – her rather large family – which had grown throughout the years thanks to God's grace. What would she have done without her family? So what if they weren't all blood related, that didn't matter. What made them a family was the love that the shared for one another. It was the love and care that made it possible for them to all live in such close proximity and still not what to kill each other.
Geet joined Meera, Dev, Naintara, Yash and Maan where they stood, over looking the pathway where all the international passengers came out of. Each had in their hands either a bouquet of flowers, or a bunch of balloons, or a stuffed animal. Each of them, eagerly awaiting the return of the most loved family member. Everyone awaiting the return of Roshni.
As Geet thought about her daughter, a sense of pride and love overwhelmed her. Her little miracle baby had fought and over come all obstacles, far surpassing their hopes and dreams. She had been an adorable and smart girl in her adolescence. She'd blossomed into a beautiful and intelligent young woman.
Roshni had Geet's raven hair, bubbly attitude and slight frame. But don't let looks fool you because she had Maan's intense eyes and fuming anger as well. However, despite being spoiled by one and all she was a down to earth and well rounded human being. Despite all fears that she would have a learning disability as she grew, she proved everyone wrong. Roshni had been on the honor roll ever year since she was in elementary school and maintained a higher than 4.0 GPA all through out her education. She graduated from high school at the age of 16 and from college by the age of 18, when other people her age were just starting college. Like her father, she too went into the medical field, finishing by the time she was 22. Unlike her father, however, she had chosen to go into obstetrics and gynecology, like Meera. Roshni had just finished her 3yr internship and had gone on a trip to Europe with friends.
It was the first time she had been away from the family for so long and it was driving everyone, especially Maan nuts.
"Where is she?" Maan asked as if on cue, "She should have been here by now!"
"The flight landed already, where could she be?" Dev asked irritated.
"You think she got stuck in customs or something?" Yash asked worried.
Dev and Maan looked at him in shock.
"Would you three mamma bears relax!" Meera said, "Her flight hasn't landed yet."
"Yes it did," Dev argued, "Look…Flight 545 on time…landed at Gate 14"
Meera smacked her head.
"That is flight 454 not 545," she pointed out.
"Oh," he said dejectedly.
"They act like such children when it comes to Roshni," Naintara said.
Geet, Naintara and Meera laughed while the men were suddenly grumpy. It was not a hidden fact that all three men still treated Roshni as if she was a 5 year old.
"Speaking of children," Geet said as she looked around, "Where are our hooligans?"
"There they are," Meera said as she pointed behind Geet.
Turning around, Geet saw the other half of their family – the children – walking down the terminal with beverages in their hands.
Other than Roshni, the family was blessed six other children. Dev and Meera had Riya, 22, and Aarav, 18. Riya was currently pursuing her MBA at UCLA, While Aarav was about to graduate high school and then join Riya at UCLA. It was one of Dev's life's greatest tragedies that neither of his children had chosen his alma mater, USC.
Then there were Yash and Naintara's three children. First came twins Ishaan and Payal, 20. Ishaan was currently going to school at CSULA to get his teaching degree, while Payal was at USC going for psychology. Naintara had been ecstatic that she'd had a boy and girl because she wasn't about to go through labor again, no way no how! However, God had other plans. That is why nearly ten years later she found herself pregnant and gave birth to a little angel they named Naina. And true to form, Naina was the apple of everyone's eye. Having a new baby in the house was something that everyone enjoyed.
Leading the group was Ishaan with Naina holding onto his hand. Behind them trailed the rest of the group talking and chatting away.
"You kids and your caffeine!" Naintara complained, "Must you always drink these things?"
As Geet looked closely, they all had iced coffee's of some sort in their hands.
"Please tell me Naina isn't drinking coffee," Meera said as she pulled Naina to her side.
"Of course not Massi," Aarav began. "We got her a smoothie."
"Rodi's not here?" Naina asked at the mention of her name.
Rodi was what Naina called Roshni, because as a younger child 'Roshni Di' was just too much to say. Throughout the years, the name stuck.
"No honey, not yet," Geet said.
"I'm so happy Di is finally coming home," Riya said. "We have so much to chat about."
"I know!" Payal agreed.
The three girls were as close as sisters and loved each other the same way. Riya and Payal looked up to Roshni and used her as a sounding board for any decision they needed to make. Whether it was to choose what dress to wear to prom or what college to go to. No matter how big or small the issue, they always took it to Roshni.
"Why isn't she here yet?" Maan whined as he came and stood by Geet.
"She will be, give it time," Geet said.
"Relax Jiju, we always have the best homecomings!" Naintara reminded.
Everyone smiled as they remembered various home comings beginning with Roshni coming home from the hospital all those years ago.
"Then she's probably pregnant," Ishaan said.
"What!?" all three sets of parents yelled.
"Well, just think about it…all of our family homecomings bring with it one of two things, news about marriages or news about babies," Ishaan pointed out.
True enough, every pregnancy announcement – every single one – had some how coincided with someone coming home from a trip, a conference or something like that.
"Gadha!" Dev yelled as he hit Ishaan's head. "Don't say such things!"
"I swear Naintara, I'm gonna kill your son," Yash said.
"So now he's only my son?" Naintara asked. "Not yours."
"I'm just saying there's a chance that Rosh Di has pregnancy news," Ishaan said in support of his idea.
"Its times like this I'm relieved I'm not blood related to these nuts," a voice said.
It was Rahul, Maan and Geet's 21 year old adopted son. They had adopted him from an orphanage when he was barely a year old. Geet had wanted more children, even if they weren't her own. She had a lot of love to give to a child in need. Since the day her eyes fell onto him in his crib, there was no going back. Maan, Geet and everyone loved him like their own; they never even brought up the fact that he was adopted.
Rahul went straight to Geet and gave her a hug. He was totally a Mamma's boy. However, he was in complete awe of his father, which is why he was in med school with the aim to become a cardiologist like Maan.
"Whatever," Ishaan said, "You're jealous that you don't have our flawless genes and you know it."
"He gets his obnoxiousness from his father," Naintara said as Rahul went and hugged her as well.
It took Rahul a few minutes to make his rounds and greet everyone. He was in college and living in dorms so he didn't see his family as often as he'd like.
Just as Maan was about to ask Rahul about his studies, there was an overhead announcement that made everyone forget everything as smiles spread on their faces.
"Flight 545 form Paris via JFK has now landed at Gate 17."
Home. After two months abroad, she was finally home. She couldn't wait to see her family. In her 25 years of life, she had never been away from her family for more than two weeks during summer camp as a child. More than anything else in the world her family meant the most to her. Her crazy, wacky, infuriating and loving family was her world. How could they not be?
She came out of the plane and immediately followed the signs that lead her to immigration. The sooner she cleared through all of that, the sooner she could get her things and be out. Lucky for her, because she held a US passport, her time in the lines were quicker than those carrying foreign passports. Once that was done with, she headed over to baggage claim, tying her hair in a knot so that it wouldn't get in her way. Just as she was coming up on the carousel her phone vibrated. Looking down to see what it was, a smile spread on her face. She had a text message from her father asking if she'd landed.
'Yes Papa, I landed. I'll be out soon.'
Soon after, with her two large luggage's and two carryon's secured on the trolley, she proceeded to customs. Customs took nearly no time at all and now, it was the moment she waited for.
Geet pushed her trolley along, a huge grim speared across her face at the anticipation of seeing her family again. She came down the long tunnel like path way that would lead her into the heart of the Tom Bradley terminal. She made the turn and held her breath as she turned the corner and began walking up the pathway that led to the waiting area. Her eyes scanned the crowd for her family, but she couldn't spot them. She came all the way around and still nothing. Then, suddenly there was a roar.
Turning her head in the direction that the sound came from, Roshni's grin grew as her family came in sight.
As she walked towards them, she counted everyone. Her loving and overprotective father with her two Chacha's (Dev and Yash) – check. Her crazy, funny and well meaning Massi's (Naintara and Meera) – check. Roshni always found it funny how she only had Chacha's and Massi's, but now Chachi's or Mausa's – that is how close Maan was to the boys and Geet to the girls. Then came her cousins. The twins, Ms. MBA (Riya), Mr. Prom King (Aarav), Professor Wannabe Ishaan, and her over achieving brother Rahul who held Naina in his arms. As much as she was happy to see them, her eyes searched for the most important person in her life – her mother.
Roshni had always loved her mother from the bottom of her heart, they had always been close, but as a teenager, like everyone else, Roshni and Geet had ran into problems that had led to an explosive argument that ended with Roshni telling Geet she hated her. It was that night she had found out the painful truth of her existence.
Roshni had only been 14, a freshman in high school, when her father had told her what Geet faced to bring her into this world. Maan had told her about the surprise pregnancy, how her grandparents had treated her mother. Not just that, but the complications of her pregnancy, the unexpected delivery and the sheer love and miracle that helped Roshni survive those first few weeks when the doctors were sure if she'd live of die.
From that night on the love that Roshni felt for her mother grew ten fold. With that love came admiration, respect and gratitude for her amazing mother who fought for her, nearly loosing her life in the process. She had always heard that mothers would die for their children, and it sent chills down her spine just thinking that hers nearly had.
Despite all that, it amazed Roshni that her mother held no grudge against her parents. Sure, they weren't part of their lives, but Geet never wished them any harm or hardship. What further amazed her was that her mother was not only a mother and wife, but a career woman. She had gone back to school and obtained a BA in child development and an MBA as well. Now, with the help of her aunts, Geet ran a non-profit organization for pregnant women in need of prenatal care and a child development center where parents of children with all kinds of disabilities could come for help.
Between her Naintara, her college professor aunt, Meera and Geet, Roshni had the best role models throughout her life.
"Welcome home Ro…" she heard some say.
However, Roshni paid no attention as her eyes finally fell on her mother who appeared to be on a phone call.
"Mamma," she said as she let go of her still moving trolley and headed straight for Geet.
She heard Ishaan complain in a grunt as her trolley hit him but she didn't care.
"Mamma," she said once more as she hugged her mother from behind.
Geet had first heard her voice, then felt her embrace and finally turned to see her pride and joy, her daughter. Geet's eyes filled with tears as she cradled her daughters face in her hands.
"Roshni," she said softly.
Then, being a mother, she checked her from head to toe to make sure that she was the same as when she'd left.
"Welcome home baby," Geet said as she took Roshni into her arms again.
The stayed like that for a few seconds, just enjoying being with each other again.
"You're such a horrible child," Rahul said. "Always making Mamma cry."
"Stop it Rahul, don't tease your sister," Maan admonished.
"Sorry Papa," Rahul said immediately.
Now it was Maan's turn to greet his daughter. He couldn't help the smile that spread on his face. His baby girl as finally home. The happiness and relief was present in his eyes.
And so, one by one, everyone took their turn and hugged Roshni to welcome her home.
Geet was in the kitchen with the rest of the ladies of the family, while the men were all huddled in the family room watching some sort of action movie.
Geet was cutting vegetables while Meer stirred a pot on the stove. Payal, sat at the table talking to Roshni about her trip, while Riya worked on the dessert. Even little Naina helped by peeling potatoes for Geet. Naintara on the other hand, sat on a barstool that looked out into the yard and had a clear view of the front of their house – she sat with a special task.
"There was this really great boutique that had the cutest dresses," Roshni told Payal.
"Did you bring us back samples?" Payal asked excited.
"Payal!" Naintara admonished.
"What mom? It's just Rosh Di, chill out," Payal commented back.
"It's ok Massi," Roshni said. "And of course! I brought one back for all the ladies…even you Mamma."
Geet smiled at her daughter.
"You have to wear it," Roshni said before her mother tried to argue.
"What about the museums? Were the all you hoped they'd be?" Meera asked.
Roshni got up and moved to where Meera stood. As she passed Geet, she took a sliced carrot and popped it into her mouth.
"They were more than I expected," Roshni said.
They continued to talk about her trip for another 20 minutes of so. During that time Ishaan and Rahul came for snacks and drinks as per the orders of their fathers.
"Oh my God, oh my God," Naintara yelled as she became giddy in her seat.
"What?" Geet and Meera asked at the same time.
"Oh my God, oh my God," Naintara continued to yell; only this time she was jumping up and down.
"What Mom? Are you ok?" Payal asked.
"Umm…" Naintara began, as she looked from the window to the women in the kitchen. "Umm…the…the umm…the bean is in the burrito!"
"What!?" the women all yelled together.
"The bean is in the burrito!" Naintara repeated.
She was getting frustrated as everyone stared at her blankly.
"Oh my God," Geet said nearly inaudible.
"You understood what Massi said?" Roshni asked.
"Umm…yes…yes I did," Geet said as she eyed Meera.
"Oh God," Meera said as she nearly dropped her spoon in the pot on the stove.
"You too Massi? How?" Payal asked.
"It's a sister thing," Geet lied.
Geet put her knife down and wiped her hands on a towel and came around the counter.
"Riya why don't you take Roshni upstairs and help her get dressed for dinner," Geet suggested.
"Why?" Roshni asked as she slipped in another piece of carrot into her mouth.
"Make sure she changes into a nice outfit," Naintara said.
"But why?" Roshni asked.
"Just because…we have the whole family together after a while," Geet said.
"O…kay…" Roshni said as she gave her mother a weird look.
"Take her up Riya," Meera said.
Then, coming close to Riya who stood at one end of the counter, she whispered something so no one could hear.
"Make sure she stays up there for a while," she said.
It took Riya a minute but it soon sunk in for her too.
"Meaning…" she began, but then the light bulb went off in her mind as well.
"Yes, now go!" Meera said in a hurried voice.
Riya put down the batter she was mixing and quickly went to Roshni and took her by the shoulders.
"Come on Di, lets go get changed for dinner," Riya said. "Payal, you too…you can help us."
"Ok sure…" Payal said as she got up.
"Can I help to Rodi," Naina asked.
"Of course you can munchkin," Roshni said as she picked Naina up. "It's make over time!"
As Roshni lead Payal and Naina out of the room, Riya looked back at the women still in the kitchen and jumped up and down.
"Eee!!" she yelled before disappearing with the girls.
As soon as they were sure that Roshni was upstairs, Meera threw a dishrag at Naintara.
"Really? 'The bean is in the burrito', that's what you came up with as the warning sign?" Meera asked.
"What?" Naintara asked innocently, "I told you that you'd know it when you heard it."
"Why are you surprised Meera? Di has always been like this," Geet said as she untied her apron.
"Ya, but I'm afraid," Meera said.
"Of what?" Naintara asked with a frown.
"The fact that you are a professor who is responsible for educating the next generation," Meera said.
That elicited a giggle from Geet, a look of triumph, and a gasp of shock from Naintara. Now it was Naintara who threw the dishrag at Meera.
"Please stop it you two," Geet pleaded. "It's show time."
Naintara and Meera smiled at Geet knowingly. While Geet and Meera headed out of the kitchen, Naintara grabbed the bag of chips that were on the table. The three of them were walking down the hall that led to the family room when the door bell rang.
"Yup, it's definitely show time," Geet said with a smirk.
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